Sunday 7th April 2012

It’s the morning after my big event. The show is over and I’m feeling the inevitable anti-climax feeling you get after working for a long time towards something and anticipating/getting excited over an important occasion.

We arrived at Ronnie’s at 10am. The club is lovely when it’s empty. The Mad Men had arrived and we topped and tailed a few of the numbers. House engineer Theuns was, as always, very accommodating. We ran through our new number ‘The One I Love Belongs to Somebody Else’ and it’s always so enjoyable to hear how a new arrangement sounds with the whole band and it’s such a beautiful song (in the show I advised the audience to go and listen to Doris’ version on Spotify to hear how exquisitely she sings it).

I always have a table on stage with me. It is covered by my gingham table cloth and this time I brought along a few vintage song sheets: Pajama Game, Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered and Stardust, all songs very much associated with Doris and part of my set. I also had my new boot fair book find: Dorothy Baker’s ‘Young Man with a Horn’ to hold during my chatter about the film. I put my two Victoria sandwiches on my vintage stands (one Tupperware!) and a bunch of flowers Dolly had picked for me yesterday to brighten the table up.

With sound check over and the stage set I went into the dressing room, lovingly prepared by duty manager Barbara Rivetta to start my transformation. Our Harry James of the band Gabriel Garrick was a bit worse for wear. He had been doing a jazz course over the last few days and had developed a cold and was on the edge of illness all day – not that you would notice on stage; he always puts in a fine performance and his contribution to ‘Be My Little Bumblebee’ is always welcome.

I like the hour of dress preparation beforehand to steady my nerves and the sound check does that to a certain extent, being on the stage and feeling safe within the arrangements. I put on my dress, plaited my hair and wound it over my head, applied moisturiser, powdered my face with my vintage powder then slowly applied my make-up. The wig goes on last so that I can see what I’m doing! The famous Ronnie’s photographer David Sinclair advised me to get a new wig, he said the one I was using wasn’t really Doris enough so I purchased a couple more and they just don’t do her justice so I am still on the look out for decent wigs if anyone can point me in the right direction.

The new dress that I wore came from a vintage shop in Margate called Madam Pop-off. The gloves and necklace came from Frock ‘n Sock, which is a vintage Pilgrims Hospice shop that I work in every Monday, in Canterbury. The shoes, which I hunted high and low for (I have plenty of black shoes and black isn’t a natural colour for me to wear on stage so I used white for all my accessories) came from Siren Star on ebay who sell reduced priced Irregular Choice shoes and these white ones have a great 40s feel and as I start the set in 1948 I thought they would be the right choice.

At 1 o’clock we all entered the stage. I can feel the butterflies just thinking about it. It’s amazing how you only have to think of an event and the same feelings come flooding back. I scanned the rooms to look at all the faces, turning to see if I can see anyone familiar – not yet! The music started for ‘Sentimental Journey’ and off we went. My nerves actually settled quite quickly. The gig always starts quite seriously as the audience doesn’t know me, doesn’t know my tone or how I will present the show but this is usually set by about song three and I try to relax the audience and get them laughing as soon as possible after all this is a joyous celebration of the life of one of the most beautiful voiced actresses that has ever lived and I want to convey her talent through the show as a reminder rather than a show about me, which it isn’t.

There are some songs that just really settle on stage, it’s something that happens only live and during ‘April in Paris’ we had such a feeling. The tempo was slightly slower that we had rehearsed and Ross Stanley takes such command at the piano and every note and rhythm he plays is so appropriate for the era and the feel of a piece and his solo during the song was magical. In terms of my Mad Men I couldn’t ask for a better group of musicians. When you start out in music you just try to find any musicians but of course when you’ve been at it a while there are many more aspects to what you look for in a musician than just their musical ability and this group just could not be better in every aspect. I feel that if I did something wrong in the gig they would be right behind me to adjust and feeling that security on stage is everything as well as their top-of-their-game musicality.

The first set went by so quickly. We had taken up an hour but I wanted to end on ‘Secret Love’, it feels the right time to break in terms of the chronological order. I took off my dress, wiped off my bright red lip-stick, changed my jewellery to suit my next dress, which is vintage but it’s an eighties copy of a 50s dress. I put on my navy peep toe Jimmy Choos, a favourite pair of mine with a fantastic high heel but are so comfortable to wear. My nails painted purple, my purple bracelet, necklace and vintage clip-on earrings and I had time to top my pot of fresh mint tea to take on stage with me. The guys in the band had a quick dinner, which of course my nerves prevented.

It’s funny but my nerves seemed to kick in in the second half, I know that and maybe those close to me would see that but that’s what you hide as a performer. I think it’s less about the songs and all the information I want to pass over to the audience. The 2nd set was a short ½ hour. During the break I had invited people to come forward and let me know (via their waiters) to tell me of birthdays etc. In the audience it was Anna’s birthday, Jim and Gina were celebrating their 50th anniversary and Father Charles, a lifelong fan and admirer of Doris Day let me know he was in the audience, all the way from Herne Bay. He is such a fantastic character in our local community that it was such a privilege for me to have him there. I had already announced that Mike and Lorna Jolly who got married at the gig last year were here to celebrate their first anniversary and another couple Tanya and Bryan got married last Saturday and arrived back from their honeymoon just yesterday and were celebrating. I love the way that people come to Ronnie’s to celebrate a happy occasion and I am so grateful that they share it with me.

After the show I got out my cake knife and sliced up pieces of my Victoria sandwiches. I love this part of the show as it gives me an opportunity to find out why people are there, what sort of fans Doris Day has and their ages. A couple of 30yr olds were celebrating a birthday, lots of birthdays and I suppose the ages varied between twenties to eighties. A lady came up to me and said that herself and her friends from Germany just wanted to let me know that they are actual friends of Doris Days and had spoken to her a few weeks ago and had told her that they were coming to the show. How amazing is that. I said I hope I came across OK because I am a genuine lifelong fan and I want that to come across and she said it did. Wow, that doesn’t happen everyday. Kai Hoffman, a fellow Ronnie’s singer came along. She’s a retro queen as well. Her band Kai Cats has a regular Thursday night upstairs in the bar. She said she had to judge a Victoria Sandwich competition and mine would have been up there. How nice. People are always amazed when I say I made the cakes but you really can’t go wrong with a VS!

A lot of work goes into a show and I would like to thank Paul Mundy for his web assistance, Paul Pace for his constant help and assurance, Stephen at a Tribute to Doris day for his support and Sue Gokger at Doris’ Fan club for always helping me out. Lastly, thanks to Ronnie Scott’s for allowing me to host Doris’ birthday celebration in my own way. I can’t imagine a nicer place to celebrate.

Happy 89th birthday Doris Day! Here’s to your 90th.